How Plants Reach the Market

How Plants Reach the Market

Today’s consumers are pretty demanding. When they shop for trees, they look for hardiness, vigour, pest and disease resistance, drought tolerance and big, long-lasting blooms. What’s more, they want instant gratification, mature trees and shrubs that are ready to put on a great show in the first season. To top it all off, they want these plants to require as little maintenance as possible. Of course, nurserymen and growers are gardeners, too, and they also desire each and every one of these features.

To meet consumer demand, large-scale growers across North America spend millions of dollars and man-hours to develop varieties that today’s gardener will take pride in growing and displaying. But even if you develop the world’s greatest varieties, you still need contacts to bring them to market.

That’s where nursery managers like Shane Neufeld come in. Every year, Shane goes on a fact-finding mission to one or more of North America’s largest commercial growers, searching for high quality plant material and outstanding new varieties. In July of 2002, Shane journeyed to Bailey Nurseries in St. Paul, Minnesota, to take a first-hand look at some of this year’s most exciting new tree and shrub varieties.

‘Blue Trail’ Juniper

While ‘Blue Trail’ isn’t new to the industry, this variety is fresh to our nursery, and we look forward to the first shipment of trees. As you can see, Bailey’s grows many of their trees using a “pot-in-pot” system. Each ‘Blue Trail’ juniper shown here is nestled in its own pot and then dropped into a second pot that’s buried in the ground. This system keeps the root zone cool and prevents the soil from drying out, reducing stress on the plants. They can be overwintered right in the ground. Using this method, the folks at Bailey’s can comfortably grow trees with 9-cm calipers within just five or six years.

In addition to the great vigour obtained thanks to these growing methods, ‘Blue Trail’ junipers feature an outstanding, improved, more intense colour than other junipers, as well as a more compact growing habit.

A Lucky Accident

‘Blue Trail’ is one of those lucky accidents of nature. It originated from a seed of the venerated ‘Rocky Mountain’ variety, but some quirk of genetics gave the new plant that emerged from this seed a very different look and growth habit.‘Blue Trail’ junipers must be propagated via cuttings from the original parent plant to retain the new variety’s outstanding characteristics.

‘Concord’ Barberry

Now that it’s again legal to import barberries into Canada, northern gardeners can finally enjoy a wide range of barberry varieties. ‘Concord’, with its gorgeous, deep burgundy foliage with a blue tinge (much like a Concord grape), is just now going into production at Bailey’s.

‘Obelisk’ Saskatoon/Serviceberry

This amazing columnar Saskatoon is being considered for future production. It’s a very upright Saskatoon, with beautiful foliage and lots of blooms. Old growth is dark, bluish green, while new growth is a brighter emerald green. Fall colour is brilliant red.

‘Teddy’ Cedar

This cedar keeps its juvenile foliage, resulting in a finer, softer, texture and more compact growth than traditional cedars. Excellent for small shrub beds or rock gardens.

‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangea

This is a particularly great hydrangea for northern gardeners. Most Macrophylla, or “big leaf” hydrangeas bloom on old wood—you can grow them in zone 3, for example—but the chances of seeing blooms is slim since the harsh winters kill the branches down to the snowline. (If there is no snow, the branches die back all the way to the ground!) With ‘Endless Summer’ that’s no longer a problem, since this variety produces blooms on new wood, which appears in the summer.

If grown in a container, these hydrangeas can be forced to change colour from pink to
blue with the addition of certain fertilizers. This unique hydrangea should hit the market
in the summer of 2003 or the spring of 2004.

‘Tiger Eye’ Sumac

This staghorn sumac has incredibly intense gold foliage, a colour previously unheard of for sumacs. ‘Tiger Eye’ would be an excellent addition to small shrub beds as an accent plant. They’re especially attractive when mixed with plants of purple or blue foliage. This variety should be available in 2004

Soil Matters

Bailey’s uses soil that closely approximates the soil found in your garden. On the Bailey’s growing ranges these heavier soils retain water longer, resulting in a better quality plant. By growing their plants in heavy soils, Bailey’s is preparing these trees and shrubs for the home garden environment. They’re ready to roll, taking much less time to adjust to your garden than trees and shrubs grown in lighter soils.

The Lifespan of Trees

The Lifespan of Trees

By Jim Hole

When it comes to understanding lifespan, most people have a pretty good grasp of the concept--at least when it comes to animals. But we’re not quite as clear on the lifespans of many plants. Everyone knows that bedding plants are only supposed to last one season, but when it comes to perennials, trees, shrubs and hardy roses, sometimes gardeners forget that these organisms, like any other, are mortal. This especially applies to trees; people seem to expect them to live forever, and often can’t figure out what they’re doing wrong when venerable trees begin to die. The truth is, you may have done nothing wrong at all; the bell may simply be tolling for your tree, so to speak.

Old Soldiers, Fading Away

While it’s true that a few trees can and have lived for thousands of years, most typical backyard trees will experience considerably shorter life spans. Older trees have one obvious feature that separates them from their younger cousins: they are a lot bigger. And although this isn’t a startling revelation, being taller and broader does have some serious implications on tree health. Water and nutrients travelling through an older tree have a greater distance to cover than those travelling through a younger tree of the same species, for example. As a result, there’s more opportunity for that journey to go awry.

Cavitation, or the breaking of the continuous, cohesive chain of water columns can be a problem in large trees. When a solid column of water breaks apart, an air bubble is formed that is comparable to an embolism in a human body. The air bubble can force water to take an alternative route. Sometimes the rerouting causes certain branches to lose their water and nutrient supply, leading to their eventual death. If enough branches are affected this way, the tree can be seriously weakened.

Drought conditions frequently put a greater strain on older trees than younger ones because older trees require more water due to their size – the greater the number of leaves, the larger the water loss due to evaporation.Therefore, one key component of managing older trees is to provide them with lots of water, particularly during prolonged periods of drought. 

Another question that many homeowners ask about older trees is whether or not to fertilize. The answer is yes, but sparingly. With younger trees, the goal of applying fertilizer is to promote growth; with older trees, the priority should be to maintain health. A large dose of fertilizer won’t help an older tree. It shifts the tree’s biochemical balance in favour of producing new branches and buds while sacrificing the production of a tree’s defensive chemicals, used to ward off pests. So while an older tree will likely produce more leaves when it gets a surge of nutrients, it will be less able to fend off insect and disease attacks.

Finally, pruning is often the last thing that one thinks about with old trees, unless a branch is about to tumble from the tree and damage the house or car. Pruning large old trees requires specialized equipment that homeowners simply don’t have, and therefore pruning can be expensive if a professional arborist is hired.

Nevertheless, pruning is beneficial to old trees. Perhaps the most important reason for pruning older trees is to reduce the risk of limbs falling off. But pruning has other benefits: it reduces the distances nutrients and water must cross, and therefore also reduces the risk of cavitation. It also eliminates dead branches, removing them as a harbour for insect pests and as an entry point for disease. Keep in mind that pruning a little every year is far better than pruning in one big session once a decade. Just as with human beings, steady care over the years is far better than emergency surgery.

To Everything a Season

Although they are mortal, with proper care most trees will have a long and rewarding life. They key is addressing their changing needs as they grow older, a practical approach that, when you think about it, applies whether you are a tree or a human.